Monday, October 06, 2008

A Short Story Has Ambitions

The short story — how modest in bearing! How unassuming in manner! It sits there quietly, eyes lowered, almost as if trying not to be noticed. And if it should somehow attract your attention, it says quickly, in a brave little self-deprecating voice alive to all the possibilities of disappointment: “I’m not a novel, you know. Not even a short one. If that’s what you’re looking for, you don’t want me.” Rarely has one form so dominated another. And we understand, we nod our heads knowingly: here in America, size is power. The novel is the Wal-Mart, the Incredible Hulk, the jumbo jet of literature. The novel is insatiable — it wants to devour the world. What’s left for the poor short story to do? It can cultivate its garden, practice meditation, water the geraniums in the window box. It can take a course in creative nonfiction. It can do whatever it likes, so long as it doesn’t forget its place — so long as it keeps quiet and stays out of the way. “Hoo ha!” cries the novel. “Here ah come!” The short story is always ducking for cover. The novel buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The short story scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence.
Steven Millahuser, author of the collection Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories writes about The Ambition of the Short Story in the New York Times.

(And thanks Preeta for finding it first and letting me know.)

7 comments:

SpaceWeed said...

Steven Millahuser`s Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories collection.Ohh that brings up some memories.i just loved them.

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Yusuf said...

Now that's what I call writing!!

bibliobibuli said...

isn't it just, Yusuf? am in love with this writer already!

spaceweed - you are a bogus spammer. brings up some memories??? the book was launched this year!

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's a recommendation from someone who's not a bogus spammer: _Martin Dressler_, the book that won the Pulitzer, is a really interesting book -- heavy going at times, but beautifully written and definitely worth reading.

-- Preeta

Janet said...

Thanks for blogging about this, Sharon, and Preeta for finding the article! Excellent, I really enjoyed it. Laughed aloud when I read it.

Argus Lou said...

Thank you for the link to the full piece, Ms Bibli. It's one thing to enjoy the power of a successful short story and a totally different thing to try to write one. Gouging out one's eyes comes to mind. ^_^

bibliobibuli said...

preeta - many thanks for the recommendation.

argus lou - you're welcome. i was dead chuffed to be able to link to such a lovely piece. ahh but you can write v. well. (reading at seksans for you next time you're home)

janet - i laughed aloud too. love it!